Families and Households – Key Concepts Definitions

 

Definitions of some of the central key concepts for the A level Sociology families and households module. Not an exhaustive list, but to be gradually added to during 2017. 

Birth Rate

The number of babies born per thousand per year.

Childhood as a Social Construct

The idea that the norms and values and social roles associated with childhood are influenced by society, rather than being determined by the biological age of a child.
A family structure in which mothers are the heads of household and fathers have less power and control in family life and the allocation of resources.

Cohabitation

Two people living together in the same household in an emotionally intimate, committed relationship without being officially married.

Commercialisation of Housework

Where new technologies lead to new products which people can buy which reduces the amount of domestic labour people have to do at home – e.g. hoovers, washing machines, microwaves and microwave meals reduce the amount of time spend cleaning, washing and cooking.

Dual Burden

When someone does both paid work and a significant amount of the domestic labour, such as housework at home. According to radical feminists, it is mainly women who suffer this.

Economic Factors

Refers to things to do with money – for example how wealth a society is and the amount of wealth and income an individual or family has.

Emotion Work

Thinking about the emotional well-being of other members of the family and acting in ways which will be of emotional benefit to others. For example, hugging and reassuring children when they have nightmares, organizing Christmas and birthday parties so that everyone feels included and has a good time.

Gender Roles

The social positions and occupations we associate with men and women – for example we tend to associate the caring role with women, and the ‘provider role’ with men.

 

Globalisation

The increasing interconnectedness of societies across the globe.

Individualisation

The process where individuals have more freedom to make life-choices and shape their identities because of a weakening of traditional social structures, norms and values. For example, secularization (the decline of religion) means people have more choice over whether they should get married or simply cohabit.

Instrumental Role 

The provider or breadwinner role which involves going out to work and earning money for the family – the traditional male role within the family.

Marriage

The legally or formally recognised union of a man and a woman (or in some countries two people of the same sex) in a committed relationship.

Migration

Moving from one country or area to another.

Negotiated Family

The negotiated family varies according to the wishes and expectations of their members, who decided what is best for them by discussion. Negotiated families are more equal than traditional nuclear families, but more unstable. This is the typical type of family in postmodern society.

Nuclear Family

A man and a woman and their dependent children, either their own or adopted.

Patriarchy

A society where men hold the power and women are excluded, disadvantaged or oppressed. An example of a patriarchal society is one which women are not allowed to vote, but men are.

Personal Life Perspective

A sociological perspective which believes we should understand family life from the perspective of the individuals who make up the family, focusing on the diverse ways in which different individuals within the family define and perceive their own experiences of family life.

Postmodernism

The view that social changes (such as globalisation and more consumerism) since the 1950s have resulted in a world in which individuals have much more choice and freedom than is suggested by Modernists social theories such as Functionalism, Marxism and Feminism.

Primary Socialisation

The first stages of learning the norms and values of a society; learning basic skills and norms, such as language, and basic manners.

 

 

 

 

Serial Monogamy 

Where an individual has a string of committed relationships, one after the other.

 

 

Symmetrical Family 

A family in which the roles of husbands and wives, although not identical are more similar. There are three elements:
– Both men and women do paid work.
– Men and women both do housework.
– Couples spend their leisure time together rather than separately

Total Fertility Rate

The average number of babies a woman will have during her fertile years (15-44).

Toxic Childhood

Where social changes, especially the invention of new technologies, does increasing amounts of harm to children. For example, the internet and mobile phones results in screen saturation with increases anxiety and reduces attention spans.

 

 

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